Horror Formulas Part 3: The Cursed Object

Warning: I am feeling lazy... And thus you shall get a mini post today. In this installment of horror tropes I will count down the evil objects you don't ever wanna come across. This is how the tale usually goes... Our protagonist stumbles upon cursed item....knows no better...then performs a precise action in use of the object which then brings about their doom.

AS SEEN IN: Evil Dead, The Ring, Drag Me to Hell, Hocus Pocus, Beetlejuice, The Cabin in the Woods, Ghostbusters 2, What Lies Beneath, The Mummy, Various Simpsons Halloween Specials, The Birds, The Skeleton Key

5 objects you do NOT wanna come across:

5. Every object found in the basement of The Cabin in the Woods.

Literally every object in that basement if touched, read or looked at will bring about a different creature hell bent on destroying you. Best to probably stay away from that basement and all the freaky crap in it. Especially the object that will summon the merman!

4. The lovebirds from The Birds

Now this one is totally a subjective object. No one knows what spurred on the bird attacks in the film...but a common theory is the love birds. You can't help but feel like somehow they might have something to do with it and they should have just stayed in San Francisco.

3. Black flame candle from Hocus Pocus.
Bringing back a few witches who only desire to suck the lives out of all the little children of Salem is probably not the best idea. Therefore: all virgins back away from the candle!! And who made that virgin stipulation anyway?

2. The videotape from The Ring
Watching this video tape created by Samara is not only creepy...it will torture you all week long before killing you by the end of said week. Sign me up! Oh wait... Did I say sign me up? I meant to say don't come near me tape!! But at least it comes with an escape clause...

1. The button from Drag Me to Hell. 

The pro of this one vs. the tape is that you only get tortured for 3 days as opposed to 7... But the torture is a lot more literally in your face. And by the end you don't get death which would seem far more welcome than what you get in turn: an eternity in hell. Best be staying away from cursed gypsy buttons.

As for the do's and don'ts? Well I told you today I'm lazy so you just get a nice sentence or two.

Do make it mysterious and don't make it a cop out  Back stories are great but don't explain every detail. The more supernatural the better. Try not to make it a huge cliche that becomes the answer to everything.

Well that's it. Did I miss any?


Horror Formulas Part 2: The Haunted House

Well now that we've discussed some of the kids you never want to cross, let's talk about the places you should never live. This is another one of the most commonly used staples in the horror genre. Here's how the story typically goes: a family moves into a new house and suddenly they realize that not everything is as it seems…little noises here, ghosts popping up there...and before you know it? You find out the place has a terrifying back story that the new residents just can't escape. Now each movie has its variations, like changing it from a house to a hotel like The Shining, or having lived in the house for awhile like Poltergeist or What Lies Beneath. And sometimes the house is even pre-established as already being haunted and people need to prove how brave they are...like The Haunting. Either way, the essential story at the core remains the same...that this ain't no place you wanna live.

So before we get to the do's and don'ts of haunted homes, let's do a countdown of the top 5 places to never take up residence!

5. Beetlejuice. Actually these ghosts would be pretty cool to live with. The reason it makes the list is for Delia's creepy sculptures and interior design! Scarier than Beetlejuice himself, by far!

4. The Others. Firstly, this house is in the middle of NOWHERE. It's a freaking journey to get to town, mostly on account of the fog that forbids anyone from leaving. Then there's also the fact that the kids are allergic to light, so it's ALWAYS in the dark. Not to mention the creepy peeps that work there and the fact that this place has its own grave yard...definitely not a place I would want to live. Oh and let's not forget the book of the dead that's just lying around for anyone to find of all the dead people that ever lived in the house.

3. The Amityville Horror. It's never a good sign when a priest or nun can't stand being in your house. (Though I guess that might be some people's cup of tea...) Or when a psychic goes to the basement and describes it as "the passageway to hell." When the house isn't telling you to get out itself, it is physically attacking you or your children. Not cool house! Not cool. Next time don't move into a house where someone murdered their family..and also where Salem witch rituals occurred..

2. The Shining. Instead...try being the groundskeeper of a HOTELwhere someone murdered their family! Nah, scratch that. This one is even worse since it is in the middle of NOWHERE and freezing cold, with the snow constantly piling up. Not even the slightest chance of getting help here. Plus the ghosts are far more interactive and creepy than the others...and the insanity runs deeper.

1. Poltergeist. Truthfully, The Shining is probably the worse scenario to be in...but somehow this home seems a tad more dangerous. (physically, that is. Psychologically, The Shining is more damaging.) Building a house over a cemetery is probably not something you wanna be doing... Why you ask? (Really...you ask that?) Well, you run the risk of losing your kids to evil spirits and having to journey into another portal to get them! And when you come back you get covered in purple goo. Don't ask me, I didn't write the rules! That's not even mentioning what's in the swimming pool. On the plus side though, one of the kids has some awfully cool Star Wars memorabilia!

THE HAUNTED HOME - as seen in: Beetlejuice, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, The Others, Insidious, The Shining, The Grudge, The Messengers, What Lies Beneath, The Changeling, The Orphanage, Paranormal Activity


DO: Include creepy things that go bump in the night. Some of the most effective horror movie scares happen in a haunted house in the middle of the night. Just watched Amityville Horror last night, and while it is not a perfect film, I must admit the scenes in the middle of the night when the clock slowly rolled to 3:15 (the time of the previous tenant's murders..) I got pretty tense.

DON'T: Rely on just creepy sounds through three fourths of the film. A LOT of horror films have this problem in trying to find the balance in keeping the audience on their toes, while saving the best for last. But if all we get through the whole movie is creepy house sounds, you can save us the trouble and we will just walk around our own houses. Yes it is creepy, but terribly overdone...and if that's the best thing it has up its sleeve, you already know the finale is gonna be a clunker. Both The Others and What Lies Beneath kind of struggled with this, but The Others atmosphere and finale made up for it. What Lies Beneath? We'll get back to that finale later..

DO: Give the house a creepy backstory. House built on an Indian burial ground, home where a man killed his entire family, hotel with never ending history that all groundskeepers end up going mad there? Yep. You've got the audiences attention.

DON'T: Over complicate the backstory OR choose the most generic one ever. Over complicated backstory? Look no further than The Grudge, where all types of ghosts (human and feline alike) are lurking. Why all the ghosts crammed in one house? They all died in a fit of rage at various times and blah blah blah. As for a generic one? So and so murdered so and so there...the end (like The Messengers and Cold Creek Manor) Amityville spiced it up with the resident resembling the murderer...which kept the audience on their toes.

DO: Be creative with the formula and try out different perspectives. Beetlejuice and [ Spoiler: ] The Others [/spoiler] excel at this...by showing the well worn genre from the perspective of the ghosts. Or [SPOILER] Insidious, where it turns out the SON is haunted, not the house [/spoiler] They stand out so much more for it.

DON'T: Pull out the rug from under the audience. Cold Creek Manor and What Lies Beneath are movies that are guilty of this...because neither were quite sure what they wanna be. What Lies Beneath is all over the place. Do I wanna be generic ghost? Do I wanna be Rear Window? No...turns out the neighbor spying stuff is a go nowhere plot line red herring, and in my eyes...that's cheap. Stick with the haunted house theme. As for Cold Creek Manor? That movie is just terrible and the less said about it the better!

DO: Include terrifying imagery. The right stuff will stick in your head forever....or at least a week. The Shining is full of this! Left and right! From creepy twins to blood waves... It's no wonder Danny can't stop seeing terrible things. Poltergeist too as the mom gets dragged up the wall...you don't get more threatening than that from your house!

DON'T: let that imagery be laughable. This is where The Haunting remake lost me. Laughter in horror films is very tricky. You definitely need to be laughing with them and not AT them.

Yeah. THIS happened.

Well that's all for now. Join us next time for the horror movie objects you do NOT wanna ever get a hold of. So did I get it right? Or were there worse fictional horror movie homes I missed? Also, while Courtney was helping me find pics, she stumbled upon this gem of a blog post....about how a real estate agent might sell some of these homes. Check it out. HERE


Letting the Formula Work For You Part 1: The Creepy Child

Last Friday I finally got around to seeing The Cabin In The Woods, a clever film that deconstructs horror movie formulas, while at the same time poking fun at them. I really hated the ending of the film when I first saw it, but as I've been thinking about the symbolism of it all...I kind of discovered that me hating the ending was almost like a part of their plan...and shows how predictable I am as [SPOILER] "an angry god" or member of the audience, in viewing the offerings of the organization AKA filmmakers. They didn't appease me...so I wasn't appeased. Kinda brilliant actually. [/spoiler] The movie really got me thinking about the various tropes that pop up in the well worn horror genre and how certain films successfully utilize them, while others hope that just by placing them in there at all the job of scaring the audience is done.  

So let's take a look at some of the most famous tropes, including some of the ones featured in The Cabin in the Woods and how some movies used them to their advantage. However, we are gonna do this is in a topic per post format because as I started writing this I realized there is far too much to include....so for now I am gonna start with one of the very most common...

As seen in: The Bad Seed (the ORIGINAL creepy kid...who I almost forgot!), The Ring, The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense, The Omen, The Orphanage, The Others, The Shining, Poltergeist, Insidious, The Innocents, Orphan, Godsend, The Grudge, Let Me In, The Wickerman, The Unborn

What is it about kids in horror movies that make them so darned creepy!? I mean...they're little! They're not full grown human beings! Surely you could put Samara or Damien in their place right...right!? Okay maybe not so much when it seems almost all of these kids are for whatever reason PURE evil. And heaven help you if they are singing!

Before we get into the nitty gritty of stuff done well vs. cliche garbage I present to you....


5. Cole Sear - The Sixth Sense. Nice kid, but it wouldn't be too fun having non stop ghosts stopping by the house in hopes of him helping clear up unfinished business

4. Esther - Orphan. When she's not trying to kill you she's hitting on your husband!

3. Samara - The Ring. You just can NOT discipline this girl. She will put images in your head if you do...and plus...she never sleeps! How can you combat that!?

2. Damien - The Omen. Not so keen on the anti-Christ.

1. Regan - The Exorcist. I would like my child NOT to be possessed by Satan...


DO give them depth and a backstory. Cole in The Sixth Sense is probably one of the most interesting child characters I can think of in any film. His story is compelling, and so the audience cares for him...which makes the scares all the more effective.

DON'T just put them in the movie as a plot device. The Wickerman is an offender of this. I feel like this is one of the problems with the ghost kids found in The Grudge.

DO give the characters a personality and highlight their complexities. Again Sixth Sense is a great example of humanizing what would be a supposed evil kid in any other film. But also take a look at the kids from The Others. Their illness and upbringing have made them very different from other kids...and in their own way they are kind of fascinating.

DON'T introduce your character as a cardboard thin caricatures of an evil child. Godsend is the huge example of this. In fact...I don't remember anything about this movie other than "evil kid" When i just looked up the plot again on imdb i thought.... ohhhh evil CLONED kid. Even better. Oh and Orphan...though the twist makes it worth it haha!

DO let them discover something mysterious...or be at the center of it all. I like it when kids are the first ones to know something is up. When I was a kid I always thought it was like this :) I appreciate this in Let Me In, The Orphanage and The Ring

DON'T put them in danger just for a cheap scare. Now the operative word is cheap. Sometimes kids can be used for the most effective scares! But sometimes...in something as mediocre and ridiculous as The Wickerman, it induces an eye roll as opposed to genuine concern. And above ALL..... DON'T do THIS in your movie:

That oughtta do it! Tune in next for the segment on new houses :) Did I miss any? I wanted to include a few Simpsons clips about creepy kids but couldn't find them. haha! Next time....


A Very Hitchcock Halloween

I can't believe we're almost halfway through the month already! I've got a lot more spooky flicks to watch on my list, but in the meantime I've been focusing most of my attention on the great Alfred Hitchcock. In addition to Psycho, which I've definitely written about a time or two on this blog, we also rewatched Rear Window, Dial M For Murder and The Birds. There's just something so great about Hitchcock's films that go so perfectly with Halloween. Indeed, last year Strangers on a Train and Rope were also on my list, but sadly I don't know if I'll get to revisit them this year. I'm not the only one who likes to revisit his work either. He's constantly being referenced, re-imagined or remade (at least attempted.) Hitchcock's films are absolutely timeless... (with maybe the exception of The Birds..due only to special effects,) and they're ALWAYS in season... but apparently now moreso than ever.

Yes, there was the critically reviled and alleged shot-for-shot remake back in 1998. Never seen that because I heard it was horrible, but I must admit....it kind of intrigues me. If nothing else because it's like watching a car accident! But in 2012? The Hitchcock projects seem to be popping up left and right. First, HBO has a movie about the relationship between Alfred Hitchock and Tippi Hedren during the filming of The Birds (Sorry Sienna Miller, you're way too generic to pass for Tippi) airing October 20th. Next comes the feature film starring Anthony Hopkins simply titled Hitchcock (November 23, 2012...limited). This one takes place during the filming of Psycho and features ScarJo as Janet Leigh (skeptical...) and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles (okay...NOW you gotta be kidding me.) But I thought the trailer was interesting, and I look forward to seeing it. Lastly, A&E has a Bates Motel movie in development....a PREQUEL. Starring....Freddie Highmore as Norman. Haha! Little Charlie (of the chocolate factory) grows up to be a SPOILER: PSYCHOTIC MU/RDERER[/spoiler] Also Vera Farmiga from Up in the Air is slated to be Mother. Interesting. I'll let you judge for yourselves which looks like the better Hitchcock. My money is on the Anthony Hopkins one...but it may be full of its own inconsistencies.

HBO's The Girl


As for the REAL Hitchcock films I watched? Masterpieces. All of them. It should be interesting to see how these films' version of the films (even if it all ends up being behind the scenes..) stack up. They'd do best to make it not about the movies themselves, but something else....because you can't just rely on the merits of another movie to try and make your movie great. Novelty wears off fast....as is the case I assume with the 1998 Psycho. Kind of an interesting experiment to prove that movies AREN'T like a piece of music...that could be played by a different orchestra, yet still be just as good as another. There's something about THESE films that make them great...that no recreation can touch. You can't just recast iconic roles, do the same thing exactly, but still think the same magic would be there. These films were a product of their time. A time we can't return to, because too much has changed in the world and in the history of film. With audiences used to gore and sheer violence, how could a Rear Window work? Okay yes I know Disturbia was a sort of homage and was mostly effective. But did it have THAT magic? I'd say not.

Magic doesn't strike twice!

Is it Hitchcock's top notch cast that makes the difference? There sure aren't Jimmy Stewarts or Grace Kelly's any more. [Side Note: Speaking of, there's a Grace Kelly movie in development too...with ANOTHER Hitchcock character...though not sure if it's ABOUT him. Anyway, Grace is played by Nicole Kidman! Sorry...but no. /Side note over] Is it the times, as I already mentioned? With slasher films dominating the cinemas, a Psycho remake had to seem pretty "been there, done that" somehow making a "classic" seem generic. Is it the sure handed direction of the man himself? There's certain scenes that truly are utterly captivating. Even scenes focusing only on conversation which let character development shine through are fascinating. Like Lisa and Jeff's arguments over their relationship in Rear Window, Or Mrs. Brenner confiding in Melanie Daniels why she feels weak in The Birds. How about  Mr. Wendice manipulating his old school friend into committing murder in Dial M For Murder. Another scene that's always fascinated me from The Birds is the scene in the diner preceding one of the many bird attacks...probably one of the best in the whole film....because it shows the wide scale of human nature so clearly. Moral dilemmas are always great in his movies, as with Rope. He shows us clearly the feelings of the characters. But then there's the moments of pure suspense that he absolutely gets right too! The finale of both Psycho and Rear Window always get me! Strangers on a Train too for that matter. Dial M For Murder sure kept me on the edge of my seat too. And the scene of Tippi Hedren waiting outside the school as the birds appear one by one on the playground ALWAYS gives me the chills.

No...it's not just ONE thing he got right in his movies. He got EVERYTHING right. Which is why it's so hard for people to replicate it what he so easily captured. When Hitchcock made movies, there was a certain magic that you just can't manufacture. Everything worked together in perfection for him, in a way they don't always for others....which makes sense as he was quite the eccentric perfectionist. I will reserve judgement on all of these projects until I see them....but the bar is set pretty high.


It's that time of the year again....

OCTOBER!!!! HALLOWEEN!!! Nothin' but those scary halloween-themed movies all month again :) Well...unless I happen to go to the theater and finally getting around to some good JGL lovin. But in the meantime, it's time for another post over on Courtney's blog again! My Top 10 Halloween favorites. I know you're so excited to read more Halloween themed posts, I only gave you 3 last Halloween! Haha! I have to say, that I feel like a bit of a cheat since every movie on my list I wrote about last Halloween...but what can I say, last year I had a pretty fantastic selection. So far this year I've re-watched 3 on my list, but I definitely need to watch some different ones this year. Any suggestions? Take to the comments below! But first head on over to the link below to check out my list! As usual, I'll give you a few hints..

And as a refresher, you can find my Halloween posts from last year HERE, HERE, and HERE.

One more side note....... HAPPY 20,000 views to me! HOORAY!